Thursday, May 05, 2016

Stories of courage from Fort McMurray 

 I'm sure every one of the thousands of Fort McMurray families has their own story of what happened to them during the evacuation, but here's one of the most thrilling stories of courage that I've seen so far:
If Cora Dion only needed transport for two horses as she fled Fort McMurray with her twin 15-year-old daughters, three dogs and a cat, the family’s escape from Alberta’s worst wildfire in years would have been fairly straightforward.
But she had four horses. And a trailer for two....
So they joined the vehicular torrent on Highway 63 — Dion, the dogs and the cat in her truck; two horses in the trailer; and Gwen and Carly riding the two remaining horses.
They didn’t even have time to saddle them both: Carly rode bareback; Gwen took charge of Addie, a six-year-old thoroughbred who, as a racehorse, is high-strung by nature.
Sometimes they took the shoulder, Dion driving slowly alongside. Where there was no shoulder, they were on the road, in traffic. ...
“Seriously, for my daughter to jump on a six-year-old thoroughbred and ride down the highway, that takes guts,” she said. ...
“We had Harleys driving right behind. Normally a Harley would cause great stress, especially in a really young horse like Addie.”
“My horse, she’s very much the leader of our little herd there, and you could tell she was very visibly trying to suppress her stress. She was pretending to be calm, but when we pulled her off she was drenched with sweat.” ...
As Dion and her girls waited for their next ride at the junction of highways 63 and 881, a stranger with a four-horse trailer pulled up beside them.
“I don’t know who you are, but load in — let’s get going,” she recalls him saying.
“He literally put my horses in his trailer and we were on the road in five minutes.”...
They’ve no idea when they’ll be able to go home or what will be left when they do. (So far, from what they hear, the house is still standing.)
Especially painful is the thought of the animals they left behind: a corn snake, a bearded dragon, and a ball python named Demetrius who probably won’t make it without carefully controlled heat and humidity.
Hunter, their 10-year-old cat, was nowhere to be found when they left. Dion hopes he can take care of himself for a little while.
“Honestly, now that I look back, it was pretty terrifying,” Dion says.
But at the time, she was in survival mode.
“I was just, OK, this is what we have to do.”
Other families evacuated included Syrian refugees who had only arrived in Fort McMurray four months ago:
As members of Fahed Labek's family from war-torn Syria fled the inferno engulfing their adopted Alberta hometown, he recalls them staring back at the flames in Fort McMurray.
"They said, 'OK. We left the fire and now we saw another fire. From fire to fire,' " said Labek, 43, who fled the approaching wildfire on Tuesday.
Labek lives in Fort McMurray with his wife and two children. He helped relocate his mother, sister, brother-in-law and their two children to his home in late February.
They are among about six families of Syrian refugees that resettled in the city in recent months....
Labek and his family left in a rush for oilsand workers' camps to the north of the city, expecting a 45-minute drive. Instead they drove for eight hours and when they arrived, apologetic aid workers told them no beds were available.
The family, including his 68-year-old mother who is in a wheelchair, set off again for Edmonton.
When their car broke down they were picked up by other evacuees in two different vehicles. Labek was awake for 42 hours before everyone reunited in Edmonton at about 6 a.m. Wednesday.
"Now we have another story. I have to find a place to stay, I have to find some food," Labek said Thursday.
"We don't have clothes for my kids, we don't have milk. For my kids, we don't even have diapers."
The evacuation order happened so quickly that people couldn't fill up their tanks -- now hundreds of cars are abandoned on the highways, and the government has sent tanker trucks and set up mobile gas stations to allow owners to get their vehicles moving again.
Here are before and after photos from The Weather Network:

More photos from the Toronto Star:
Firefighters and police in Fort McMurray.
Alberta firefighters take a break from wildfires in Fort McMurray that now cover an area roughly the size of Calgary.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Alberta officers are seen during search, rescue and evacuation efforts as they respond to wildfires.

Evacuees and volunteers in Lac La Biche:

Evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires have moved a second time as weather shifts and are now in Lac La Biche, Alta.They look through donated goods and clothing at the "Bold Center."

People prepare food in a kitchen for evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires at the "Bold Center" in Lac la Biche.

Nobody has died so far, and two babies have been born during the evacuation.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Thought for the day 

Calvin and Hobbes

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Duffy should please just shut up for a while 

I think Canada has had quite enough of Mike Duffy.
I know I certainly have.
Apparently we aren't supposed to hold this grown man responsible for understanding such complex rules as:
1.  If its not Senate business, don't ask for reimbursement; and,
2.  If you live in Ottawa, don't ask for reimbursement.
Most other Senators had no difficulty acting ethically and with the rules. But poor Duffy just found it too hard.
After the greediness and ineptitude and poor judgment displayed throughout his trial, Duffy now is adding insult to injury by asking for retroactive pay for the two years he was suspended from the Senate.  And I think it is quite likely he will get it.  So he will pocket years and years of the income taxes I worked to pay.
So no, I'd just rather not hear any more from him for a while.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

NDP leadership woes 

So Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten has resigned after losing his seat, and federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair was voted out - though apparently he still wants to hang around embarrassing the party for the next two years until they finally elect a new leader.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Clinton is on track to win it 

Looking at what has happened so far, and at the contests coming up, here's my unscientific view of what is going to happen over the next two months:
First fact: the total number of delegates needed to win is 2300.  As of yesterday, Hillary needed about 700 more delegates, and Bernie needed about 1400 more.
Second fact: From now until the end of May, there will be 13 primaries and caucus, awarding about 1,100 delegates.
Based on results so far with Bernie winning the smaller caucuses and Hillary the larger primaries, I think Bernie and Hillary will continue to split many of these votes.  But I believe Hillary is on track to achieve significant wins in the closed primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky, while Bernie's only large blowout will be today's open caucus in Washington.
As a result, over the next two months, I think we will see Hillary gain maybe 600 to 700 delegates -- which brings her pretty close to the goal -- and Bernie gain maybe 400 to 500, which leaves him still about a thousand delegates short.  And there are only about 700 delegates remaining in all of the June primaries.  So even though he gained about a hundred at the Saturday caucuses, which is cheering to his supporters, in the long run these delegates aren't going to help.
I must say now that its becoming clear that Hillary is going to win -- because millions of Democrats actually like her a lot -- I'm glad to see more people pushing back against some of the Hillary hatred which has polluted blogs like Daily Kos for the last several months.  In refuting Matt Taibbi's incoherent Clinton trashing, Kevin Drum goes point by point while Booman gives everyone a valuable history lesson in what happened during Bill Clinton's presidency. Booman concludes:
The choice between Clinton and Sanders is not a choice between today and 1992; it’s a choice about who you think is best prepared to be president and who can win by the biggest margin. It’s also a bet, or a gamble on how much change you think the system can bear. And it’s a guess about which candidate can get more out of a reluctant Congress.
It’s no easy choice, and I don’t want to pretend that it is, but it’s not a choice between good and evil, and it’s not obvious who is right.
The more I see of Bernie, the less I think of him. As Kevin Drum puts it:
Bernie Sanders too often lets rhetoric take the place of any actual plausible policy proposal. He suggested that his health care plan would save more in prescription drug costs than the entire country spends in the first place. This is the sign of a white paper hastily drafted to demonstrate seriousness, not something that's been carefully thought through. He bangs away on campaign finance reform, but there's virtually no chance of making progress on this. The Supreme Court has seen to that, and even if Citizens United were overturned, previous jurisprudence has placed severe limits on regulating campaign speech. Besides, the public doesn't support serious campaign finance reform and never has. And even on foreign policy, it's only his instincts that are good. He's shown no sign of thinking hard about national security issues, and that's scarier than most of his supporters acknowledge. Tyros in the Oval Office are famously susceptible to pressure from the national security establishment, and Bernie would probably be no exception. There's a chance—small but not trivial—that he'd get rolled into following a more hawkish national security policy than Hillary.
I'm old, and I'm a neoliberal sellout. Not as much of one as I used to be, but still. So it's no surprise that I'm not always on the same page as Taibbi. That said, I continue to be surprised by the just plain falseness of many of the left-wing attacks on Hillary, along with the starry-eyed willingness to accept practically everything Bernie says without even a hint of healthy skepticism. Hell, if you're disappointed by Obama, who's accomplished more than any Democratic president in decades, just wait until Bernie wins. By the end of four years, you'll be practically suicidal.
Finally, here's Hillary's latest speech, on terrorism and how she intends to deal with it  -- hint:  she's not carpet-bombing ISIS, or closing the borders, or patrolling Muslim neighbourhoods. As well as laying out her own positions, she is also testing out the attack lines she intends to use during the election campaign against the Republicans.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hillary sweep 

I was so so glad to see Hillary sweep the five Super-Duper Tuesday states tonight -- she comfounded the polls just like Bernie did last week in Michigan, except this week she took Illinois, Ohio and Missouri from him, as well as maintaining significant leads in Florida and North Carolina.
Why did he lose? Two main reasons I think -- first, however odious Trump is, Americans are totally committed to free speech, so I think they had a visceral negative reaction to Bernie Bros trying to shut down Trump rallies. And I think it was offensive to democrats for Bernie to say in an interview Sunday that he was running in the Democratic primary, not as a service to the Democratic party or to the country but because of the media coverage he would get as a Democratic candidate.
And why did she win? She had an awful week with the Nancy Reagan HIV flub in spite of her somewhat-graceful recovery. But she hit it out of the park with the painfully-honest answer about why people didn't like her, the nuanced response on capital punishment to the wrongfully-convicted man, and the post-debate follow-up which we could see off-camera to the Guatemalan woman whose husband was deported. These small-ball moments added up to a home run.
UPDATE: And we are already seeing an uptick in Clinton Derangement Syndrome.
In her victory speech, Hillary pivoted to attacking Trump because she no longer needs to deal with Sanders.  So one of her lines in this speech was about how America needed to “engage its allies, not alienate them” — quite obviously an attack line against Trump and his slanging of Mexico, Europe etc.   But later in the evening I saw a tweet from Max Blumenthal with a retweet by Billmon, that she was referring to Obama and Israel and she was “dissing” Obama for supposedly not supporting Israel.
What???  Why would any sane person jump to the conclusion that she meant something like that?
It horrifies me to realize how deranged the Hillary-Haters have become.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival, boys! 

Our social services ministry has finally figured out how to deal with homeless men in North Battleford -- give them a one-way bus ticket to BC:
A decision by a Saskatchewan government social worker to buy bus tickets to British Columbia for two homeless men is raising concerns in both provinces.
According to Caitlin Glencross, who works with the Lighthouse homeless shelter in North Battleford, Sask,, the out-of-work men were applying to the province for a spot at the shelter.
But instead of getting funding to stay at the shelter — which has been locked in a funding dispute with the province of Saskatchewan — one of the men was offered a bus ticket to anywhere outside of the province, she said.
When he said he had a friend on B.C's Sunshine Coast, he was offered a one-way ticket on a Greyhound bus to Vancouver, Glencross said.
The second man, who managed to secure funding for a bed at the shelter, then asked for and was issued a ticket to B.C., even though he had never left the province before, she said.
"I'm almost speechless," said Glencross. "Like, I don't know what to say. We can't start shipping people off when we haven't done our due diligence in our own province. It's just not acceptable."
In B.C., Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang called the decision "absolutely appalling."
Of course, an election campaign just started -- Saskatchewan can't bother our beautiful minds about poor homeless people.   An election is no time to discuss serious issues.
And who wouldn't want to be in BC at cherry blossom time!

Cherry Blossoms Vancouver

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